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Secondary scoring steps up

Newly created line of Ullstrom-Nielsen-Bailey seeing early returns on success

Wednesday, 03.07.2012 / 5:25 PM / News
By Cory Wright
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Secondary scoring steps up
After the Islanders 5-2 loss to the Ottawa Senators Feb. 26, Jack Capuano was looking to create a spark on offense. His top line was well-represented on the score sheet, but to balance the attack and create a potent second line, Capuano needed to try something new.

The Bailey-Nielsen-Ullstrom line celebrates a goal.
David Ullstrom was called up from Bridgeport, Josh Bailey was moved from center to wing and both were chosen to flank the Isles number two centerman, Frans Nielsen. Four minutes into the line's debut Feb. 28 against Washington, Bailey found the back of the net off a dish from Nielsen.

“They are skill guys,” Capuano said. “Fransie’s got good vision, David’s got some good speed and deceptiveness to his game and they’ve complimented one another right now.”

If nothing else, having three defensively responsible forwards was sure to keep the puck out of the Islanders end. But in their first three games before Sunday’s 1-0 shutout win, the trio was firing offensively on all cylinders, combining for nine points, including four goals from Bailey.

“Josh on the wing has seemed to relax him a little bit more,” Capuano said. “Right now they are using their speed and getting pucks to the net. That’s how they are having success.”

Bailey and Ullstrom found chemistry early in the season during Ullstrom’s first call-up from Nov. 21 - Dec. 20. Bailey had six points (2g/4a) playing with Swedish winger, which accounted for nearly half his point total before his recent three-game streak. Having a skilled playmaker between them to distribute the puck increased the effectiveness of the duo.

“Fransie’s the key,” Bailey said. “His defensive ability matches his offensive ability. He’s so skilled with the puck and so good at making passes and setting up his linemates. I’ve been fortunate to receive a couple of those passes already and look forward to a couple more down the stretch.”

We can all play down low. I think we’ve been strong defensively and that means we have less time in our own end and more time in the offensive zone. That’s probably one of the reasons we’ve created a lot of scoring chances over these games." - Frans Nielsen
While the Islanders are looking for consistent offensive production, the trio subscribes to the notion that protecting your own end is equally as important and that defensive play can go a long way to creating offense. 

“I think we see the game pretty similarly,” Ullstrom said. “We are all offensive-minded, but we don’t mind taking a shift in our own end if necessary. When we get the chance to go, we go and attack them hard. If we lose the puck, we respond.”

Ullstrom played center in his native Sweden and Nielsen noted that with three centers playing on the same line, it doesn’t matter who gets back to the puck first.

“We can all play down low,” Nielsen said. “I think we’ve been strong defensively and that means we have less time in our own end and more time in the offensive zone. That’s probably one of the reasons we’ve created a lot of scoring chances over these games.”

The success of the line shuffling has impacted more than just the second line. Kyle Okposo and Casey Cizikas have found chemistry together, hooking up for the game-winner and only goal Sunday against New Jersey. In four games together, Okposo’s netted two goals and Cizikas was the one who fed him the puck both times.

The Islanders have taken five of a possible eight points in their last four games, including wins over the defending Stanley Cup Champion Boston Bruins and division-rival New Jersey Devils. They’ve strung together back-to-back wins for the first time since Jan. 31 and Feb. 3 and it appears that after a few shuffles this season, Capuano finally likes the hands that he’s dealt.

SCHEDULE

HOME
AWAY
PROMOTIONAL

STANDINGS

EASTERN CONFERENCE
  TEAM GP W L OT GF GA PTS
1 TBL 50 31 15 4 163 132 66
2 MTL 47 31 13 3 127 108 65
3 NYI 48 32 15 1 157 135 65
4 DET 49 28 12 9 145 128 65
5 PIT 48 27 13 8 143 124 62
6 WSH 48 25 14 9 144 124 59
7 BOS 49 26 16 7 131 123 59
8 NYR 46 27 15 4 135 111 58
9 FLA 46 21 15 10 114 129 52
10 PHI 50 21 22 7 139 151 49
11 TOR 50 22 24 4 144 155 48
12 OTT 47 19 19 9 129 134 47
13 CBJ 47 21 23 3 119 148 45
14 NJD 48 18 22 8 109 135 44
15 CAR 47 17 25 5 102 122 39
16 BUF 49 14 32 3 92 174 31

STATS

2014-2015 REGULAR SEASON
SKATERS: GP G A +/- Pts
J. Tavares 48 23 25 -1 48
K. Okposo 46 14 30 -2 44
R. Strome 48 9 25 16 34
B. Nelson 48 15 15 5 30
F. Nielsen 48 9 17 4 26
J. Boychuk 38 4 21 16 25
J. Bailey 36 8 14 7 22
N. Leddy 48 7 14 14 21
N. Kulemin 48 11 9 0 20
A. Lee 42 13 5 6 18
 
GOALIES: W L OT Sv% GAA
J. Halak 26 10 0 .912 2.42
C. Johnson 6 5 0 .870 3.38

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